When I read about Joseph W. Waller’s invention in 1880 (he called it “an improvement”) my mind raced to a modern “shoemaker’s cabinet”: the shoe shine stand found at many airports (and some hotels).
Waller’s patent for a shoemaker’s cabinet featured a combined cabinet and seat along with essential compartments and drawers. It was also portable; it could be folded to form a compact box.
We’ve protected our feet from the elements for a very long time, perhaps for 50,000 years. In 1991, hikers found Ötzi, Europe’s most famous mummy, lying face-down in the ice. This 5,200 year old man was wearing deer skin shoes with soles made from bear skin. The bindings were made of calf leather. Straw provided insulation; moss, a lining.
Petr Hlavacek, a Czech academic, re-created the shoes found with Ötzi. Hlavacek said that the recreation provided more contact with the ground than modern shoes and felt like “walking barefoot, but only better… The only problem is that they are not pretty. Our enemy is the style.”
The first shoe factory opened in Massachusetts in 1760. Industrial revolution inventions such as the sewing machine reduced the time and expense of creating shoes.
And yet in 1880 Baltimore, there was still a demand for handcrafted shoes. At least that’s the implication of Waller’s invention.
As for the shoe shine stand, USA Today reported in 2017 that they were doing well at America’s airports.
#scitech, #black-history-month (015/365)
See also: 13 ways to not annoy your shoe shine person
Photo: shoe shine stand at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, Concourse A, 04 February 2022. Taken by permission; the client asked me to take a photo with his phone as well. 😎